The Sixth Grade Humanities class goes “mudlarking” in the Farmington River.
In the Sixth Grade Humanities class with Kim Thacker P’24, ‘27, there is no shortage of hands-on learning. This fall, students created the Middle School Museum of Curiosities, an interactive display of objects they found in the Farmington River.
In September, Kim Thacker took the sixth graders on a “mudlarking” trip to the Farmington River. Mudlarking is essentially “fast archaeology” – no excavating is required. The students waded up and down the river gathering bits of china dishes, glass bottles, and other items of refuse of a type that always seem to make their way to waterways. Zia S. ’29 found an early-19th century clay pipe stem and Mariah C. ’29 found a complete aqua glass bottle made in Waterbury, the same of which is also on display in the Mattatuck Museum. She was delighted to discover that “real” museums have objects exactly like the things she and her classmates found.
After the mudlarking trip, students cleaned their objects with soap, water, and toothbrushes.
The students then began to research their objects, which was a wonderful way for them to learn how to determine whether or not a source is credible as well as how to cite sources. After they conducted their research, they toured the Wadsworth Atheneum’s virtual Cabinet of Curiosities display to see what museum labels and museum displays look like. They created labels for their items and made “beds” for their objects in two vintage card catalog cabinets from Walker’s Constance Lavino Bell ’48 Library.
Maya G. ‘29 observed, “One of the things I enjoyed the most about this project was that we got to hands-on learn about what archeologists do for their job every day! We learned how to gather information about our objects and put together a great museum.”
The Humanities class also discussed how people who are visually impaired often have difficulty at museums and the students were determined to find a solution to making the museum readily accessible. They ultimately decided to make an audio track to accompany each of the 50 museum objects within an interactive slideshow in which people can click on drawers to “open” them and to see and hear what is inside. The students created everything in the slideshow, including taking photos and recording audio.
Kim Thacker is thrilled with the result of her students’ work. She says, “What a project! What incredible fun! Now my students use all kinds of archaeology jargon with confidence. You may hear them talking about the ‘naturalia’ and ‘artificialia’ ‘finds’ they might ‘excavate’ in the ‘strata’ on future ‘digs!’”
Visit the Middle School Museum of Curiosities in the Middle School building or the virtual museum below — be sure to turn on your volume!